This Week, we present you with some ultra-vivid audio scenes from Mali to Morocco to Tanzania to Zimbabwe to Cuba to Brazil to Ecuador and beyond (complemented by our gorgeous photo essays.) Let your imagination take you with us as we travel to some of the most exciting musical destinations anywhere.
Mali is one of Afropop’s favorite musical destinations. From the magnificent griot singers primarily in the south to the Tuareg rockers in the north, this is a magical country to visit—the grand mud mosque at Djenne on market day to hiking in Dogon country to traveling by boat down the Niger River to hanging out at Bamako nightclubs. Of course, you can’t forget two of Africa’s best festivals, the “Festival in the Desert” in Timbuktu and the less well-known “Festival on the Niger.” Of course, given the current situation in Mali, almost all sightseeing has come to a total standstill. Yet the festival in the desert is still being held in defiance of northern fundamentalists, and Mali’s musical community has faced terrible trauma with its spirit unbowed.
* Featured Artist: Ali Farka Toure
This Indian Ocean island off the coast of Tanzania is one of the most culturally influential places in East Africa, partly because it was the center of the Arab slave trade. You see and hear manifestations of African, Arab, Indian and European peoples and cultures. Zanibar is the birthplace of East African Swahili culture that reaches from Sudan to Mozambique. Most Europeans land in the capital Stonetown and are whisked straight to Club Med style beach resorts. Afropoppers can enjoy Stonetown culture, do some ecotourism, and yes, wind up at the beach. Highly recommended is the mid-February Sauti Za Busara music festival where you can hear music from all over East Africa and beyond. Enroute you can enjoy an experience of urban Africa in Dar es Salaam and then take 3 hour boat ride to Zanzibar.
One of Afropop’s favorite travel destinations, Madagascar is the 4th largest island in the world, and its special eco-system and position in the Indian Ocean makes it home to many unique flora and fauna. For the Afro-popper, you’ll enjoy valiha string music and hiragasy roots opera in the highlands and kickass tsapika and salegy dance music on the coast. The Malgasy have incorporated aspects of the Swahili, Indonesian, Mozambican and South African cultures that surround them, fusing them to form their own stirring ]cultural forms. Travel overland though breath-taking physical and social landscapes. Although under threat from corporate international deforestation, the countryside and forests are as unique and rich as the culture.
Guinea’s wealth of resources has often spelled trouble, as exports enabled dictators and corruption- not to mention intrusive foreign powers- all of whom desire a piece of the pie. Despite this, the strength of Guinea has always laid in its people and its diversity. Home of the Susu, Fula, Mandinka, and 21 other ethnic groups, the region’s rich history is preserved in the country’s complex music and arts.
With musical and cultural influences that reach deep into the Motherland, Cuba has long been one of Afropop’s favorite destinations in the Americas—from the exciting nightlife in Havana clubs to the Afro-Cuban religious music traditions to Afro-Haitian-Cuban traditions in Oriente. The Cuban people are very friendly and- certain tricky diplomatic situations aside- it’s a very safe place to visit. Arts, education and culture have always been an important part of the communist regime’s revolutionary regimen, and as a result some of the best dancers, musicians, and doctors in the world hail from Cuba. There must be something about the environment and lifestyle there, because people in Cuba have one of the longest life expectancies in the entire world!
Brazil is home of the Amazon rainforest, samba, bossa nova, carnaval, capoeira, mangue beat, and so much more. Its African, Portuguese, and indigenous roots have made the complex South American melting pot home to one of the world’s most vibrant and recognizable societies. Check out Salvador de Bahia and Recife to really dive into Afro-Brazilian culture through music, theater, dance, and food.
* Featured Artist: Martinho da Villa
If you make it to Peru your can visit the ancient Inca city of Macu Pichu, or check out the Amazon rainforest on the eastern side of the Andes mountains. Lima, the capital, is a multicultural center where you will find gastronomical delicacies with Chinese, Japanese, African and European influences while deep Afro-Peruvian rhythms light up the thriving nightlife.
The Dominican Republic is the second largest Caribbean nation and culturally related to the Afro-Latino-Taíno mestizo cultures of its Spanish speaking neighbors. Some of the Dominican Republic’s most popular forms of music—merengue and bachata have found audiences around Latin America. Don’t forget to check out the country’s favorite national pastime – baseball!
With its beautiful nature reserves, awe inspiring beaches, and close proximity to South Africa, Mozambique is still a relatively low-key tourist destination. Great times to check out the capital are in May/June for the Maputo International Music Festival, and in September for the DOCKENEMA documentary film festival. Over 40 languages are spoken in Mozambique, and conscious travelers stand to learn a lot from the country’s diverse cultural traditions.